The Decorating 'Rule' Interior Designers Say It's Time To Break (VIDEO)

The Decorating 'Rule' Interior Designers Say It's Time To Break

From classic color combinations to functional furniture layouts, there are a few select "rules" at the foundation of every well-designed room. Most professionals swear by these timeless mainstays, but, according to interior designer Isla Schmidt, what may be the biggest design rule of all has actually become the most overrated.

Maintaining perfect symmetry has long been associated with the composed sophistication that makes rooms so appealing. Using traditional symmetry, however, isn't always the best design strategy, as Schmidt explains to the web series #OWNSHOW.

"A lot of people think symmetry means things have to be equal," Schmidt says. "It really just means balance. So, instead of doing two of the exact same thing -- matching pairs of things -- try to do something a little different."

entryway by designer isla schmidt

"Say you have a sofa and two side tables," Schmidt continues. "You have a lamp on one side, [but] you don't have to do the same lamp on the other side. You could do a vase in a similar color or a collection of objects so that they both balance, but it's a little more interesting."

The key here is not to go overboard with variations -- your room should still have consistency and flow, without looking too "matchy."

"If you want to do two side tables that are the same, that works, but make sure the items on top of the side tables are not the same," Schmidt suggests.

Related: Schmidt also explains the new rules for decorating windows, including how to select the right type of curtains for your space.

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

Create That "Yes, Peonies! How Better to Celebrate" Feeling
Cupcakes and Cashmere
What You Wish You Could Do: Greet guests with a "I'm so glad you're here I got a massive bouquet of your favorite flower" bouquet displayed right on the coffee table.

You Settle for: Placing a small, affordable vase of flowers on the coffee table that nobody seems to notice (leaving you to wonder whether your money was wasted).

Next Time, Try: Move the bunch to the bathroom, like Cupcakes and Cashmere's Emily Schuman did. It's a room just about every guest visits during their stay, and the space is small and sparse enough that even a single bud vase is unmissable.
Cut Down The "Where Do You Keep the…?" Guesswork
2014 by Janae Hardy
What You Wish You Could Do: Have a Matt Bomer lookalike serve drinks at your next cocktail party, charming everyone while keeping their glasses full.

You Settle for: Dumping the contents of your liquor cabinet on the kitchen counter so guests can serve themselves without conducting a scavenger hunt.

Next Time, Try: Keeping a bar cart in the living room. You can store all of your drinks and mixers right where the action is, and vintage, brass-colored carts are almost (almost!) as easy on the eyes as Bomer. If you have wood or laminate floors, roll the cart over a welcome mat so it won't move around -- many of the older models don't have brakes, say Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, authors of A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home.
Spritz A New Signature Scent
What You Wish You Could Do: Throw open the windows and let the refreshing smell of the rows of lemon-verbena trees waft in, because -- surprise! -- you actually live in a Tuscan villa.

You Settle for: Getting that crisp, clean scent from a few strategically placed candles.

Next Time, Try: Swapping out your go-to home fragrance. Clean scents have been very popular over the years -- think the cucumber melon-infused '80s, which gave way to the spring rain and linen scents of the '90s -- but the latest take tends to borrow inspiration from fine perfumes. People are starting to gravitate toward scents that include hints of amber, musk and wood, says Geoff Medeiros, vice president of brand and product development at Yankee Candle. These notes are so subtle they're usually just mentioned in the candle's description, not its name -- for instance, he suggests Yankee Candle's Soft Blanket, and we also love Bath & Body Works' Autumn Sky or Bella J's Surf Shack.
Make A Delightful First Impression
2014 by Janae Hardy
What You Wish You Could Do: Repaint the outside of your house -- if only you could find colors that you'll still like a year from now and a spare weekend to do it all in.

You Settle for: Hanging a for-all-seasons boxwood wreath on the door and calling it a day.

Next Time, Try:Decorating your own doormat. You can test out the colors you're considering for your house and create a cheerful entrance in less than an hour. Be sure to use porch paint or latex paint, since it tends to be the most durable, says Chapman. For extra protection, coat it with a waterproofing spray. (You can also do this to create your own kitchen rugs, like the one pictured here.)
Allow For More Casual (Yet Comfortable) Seating
AKA Design, Shannon Acheson
What You Wish You Could Do: Find chairs that are as cushy as a Lay-Z-Boy and as stylish as an Eames -- and enough of them for every person you invite over (yet somehow never crowding the room).

You Settle for: Carting every chair you own into the living room and praying you're the only one who sits on the creaky one.

Next Time, Try: Making a few no-sew floor pillows that people can sit on. It's inevitable that people will plop down on the floor at parties, and these ensure that they're comfortable. Plus, you can store them in wicker baskets under a console table or in the closet, so they don't take up as much space as traditional chairs. AKA Design has a full tutorial for making your own.
Upgrade Your Coat Check
What You Wish You Could Do: Keep your coat closet gloriously sparse, so it's always ready to hold people's jackets, scarves and hats.

You Settle for: Clearing off your bed and letting people toss everything there.

Next Time, Try: Building your own DIY coat rack out of a few steel pipes and connectors, says Abby Larson, founder of Style Me Pretty Living. All of the materials can be found at a hardware store, and it's as easy as screwing the pieces in place (and coating it with gold spray-paint, for an of-the-moment touch). If you're not the DIY type, several companies also sell collapsible racks that you can tuck under the bed when they're not in use.

Photos 2 and 4 courtesy of A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home, copyright 2014 by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. Photographs copyright 2014 by Janae Hardy. Published by Potter Style, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.